Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann
On October 3, 2011, appeals court Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmann, presiding over a crowded courtroom, confidently declared that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were innocent, stating the two had absolutely nothing to do with the murder of Meredith Kercher.
Hellmann’s decision gave Amanda and Raffaele freedom after serving 1427 days in prison for a crime they did not commit. Hellmann’s ruling was definitive. In the case of the murder (and sexual assault, transporting the knife, and theft), Amanda and Raffaele were acquitted “for not having committed the act.”
Hellmann has hardly been silent regarding the recent ruling that reversed his decision. His words are just as definitive today as they were in October of 2011.
In a recent interview with LaStampa, Hellmann suggests the recent Italian Supreme Court ruling that ordered the case against Amanda and Raffaele to be sent back to the appellate level for review was not based on the actual facts. “The party of the Prosecutors had influence on the Supreme Court of Cassation” said Hellmann, adding “I expected that the decision of the Supreme Court would be the annulment and a new trial. The influence (party) of the prosecutors is very strong in the judiciary.”
Hellmann has now retired and says he is at peace with his decision. Hellmann has no doubt his court came to the right conclusion stating “I want to see who will take responsibility of convicting two innocent people or at least I challenge anyone to demonstrate that there is evidence to convict them.”
In a recent interview with Libero, Hellmann discusses how his court reached their decision.
President, can you tell us: were there violations of law? Is it true the story about pressure exerted by America because they wanted Amanda to return home as a free citizen?
Hellmann: Absolutely not. Just consider that we inherited a case already finished, in which we only had to evaluate the evidence. We didn’t request any additional investigation, the only action we initiated was to ask for an evaluation of the genetic evidence, both the prosecution and the defense considered the DNA on the exhibits the decisive evidence to win the case.
In other words, in essence you based your findings on the same evidence of the Judges of the first court that inspired exemplary convictions, of 26 and 25 years in prison, but for you indicated full acquittal?
Hellmann: Exactly. We examined that evidence, that in our judgment was not convincing. It wasn’t convincing above all in light of a careful re-reading of the Penal Code of Law, which requires “an absolute certainty, beyond any reasonable doubt”, that – in this case – Knox and Sollecito were guilty. For this my conscience is clear. That is true for all of us. We were aware of going against the protests that indeed occurred the same evening outside the Tribunal, or against different interpretations like those of the Supreme Court. But we acted in accordance with our consciences.
Do you think Amanda and Raffaele are innocent?
Hellmann: This is not the point. We searched for the “legal truth”, which doesn’t mean it coincides with the objective truth, but which surely requires certain proof. In this case there were not certain proofs. There were only clues and they were also tenuous.
What were these tenuous clues that in the first trial considered overwhelming proof?
Hellmann: It was all centered around the knife found in Sollecito’s home and the bra clasp of the victim recovered, in a second visit, at the scene of the crime. All the other elements against them were nonsense (sciocchezze, silly, of no value).
The DNA of the defendants on the murder weapon and on Meredith’s underwear weren’t proof?
Hellmann: No. I’ll explain why. The Judge of the first trial had not considered necessary a technical evaluation (of the genetic evidence). He based his findings on the work of the Scientific Police. For the prosecutors it was sufficient to close their case, but when the defense of the accused – in the second trial – focused on the challenges of the incongruities resulting in that evaluation, we decided to ask for an independent review. The professors, in our view the best available, completely dismantled the biological evidence.
It wasn’t the DNA of the defendants?
Hellmann: Yes, but on the blade of the knife the traces were so tenuous that the genetic map of DNA to whom they could have belonged was too wide. Those minor traces – other than Knox and Sollecito – could have been attributed even to me, in other words compatible with the DNA of the President of the Court.
And Meredith’s bra clasp?
Hellmann: It’s true that there was DNA that could be attributed to Sollecito, but there were also the DNA of three other men, demonstrating that it had been compromised by the contamination at the crime scene. That exhibit, photographed on the first day of the investigation, had been left there, in the bedroom. Only a month and a half later did they decide to recover and analyze it. But it was immediately noticeable that, compared to the photographs of the crime scene, the bra clasp had been moved by more than a meter and had ended up under a mat.
However, even if the other three male DNA could have been of the police officers who entered later during the course of the month without the white protective clothing, the traces of Sollecito were in any case on the bra clasp.
Hellmann: But Sollecito frequented that house. He was the boyfriend of Knox, who was the flatmate of Kercher. And indeed on the day of the crime he had lunched in the house on Via della Pergola.
But he wouldn’t have touched the underwear of a flatmate of his girlfriend.
Hellmann: No one says he did. DNA traces can be deposited even from fragments of skin cells. Infinitely small organic substances, that can be transported onto that bra clasp in a second moment. From the shoe of a police officer entering the house in that month and a half or even by a gust of air.
And Amanda’s famous memorandum from where it seems the Supreme Court will request to restart? The confession written where she accused Patrick Lumumba?
Hellmann: It wasn’t in the court records and I don’t know its contents.
Indeed the memorandum was not included in the court records, the Judge of the first trial held that it was inadmissible. Another unclear point.
Hellmann: I didn’t even know it existed. But if this memorial was so important, the prosecutors would have requested to include it in the Appeal.
According to the General Prosecutor, and maybe also of the Supreme Court who agreed to the request to re-do the trial, the accusations against Lumumba would be proof of Amanda’s guilt. If innocent, one doesn’t accuse another person.
Hellmann: In convicting Knox of slander, we explained that the girl was put under a hard interrogation by the Police. Without a lawyer. Without sleeping and with an interpreter who encouraged her to put an end to that long confrontation. In that context, she said the name of Patrick. It didn’t come from nowhere, but only after she had been challenged about an exchange of SMS with him. Lumumba was her boss, and for that they had written to each other. Accusing him could have seemed to her a way out to escape from that tight spot. Remember that Amanda was a very young girl, recently arrived in Italy and she didn’t speak our language very well. For me it was logical that in that context she could say the wrong things. Let’s wait for the motivations of the Supreme Court to understand what didn’t convince those Judges.
Current status of the case
Amanda and Raffaele are considered legally innocent and will remain free while the appellate court reviews (currently unknown) aspects of the case. The Italian Supreme Court has ninety days from the date of their ruling to release a motivation document detailing the reasons for their decision. This document will be much anticipated as many have been left shocked by the ruling.
The truth in this case is clear for anyone willing to see it. Rudy Guede murdered Meredith Kercher and he acted alone. Guede was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder. His sentence was reduced to 16 years on appeal and was later confirmed by the Italian Supreme Court. Sadly Guede will be eligible for work release as early as 2014. Where is the outrage with regard to Guede? Meredith’s killer has been completely forgotten while two innocent people continue to be persecuted. Is this justice?
Please visit www.injusticeinperugia.org to learn more about this case.